Would you turn with me now in your Bibles to the 28th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, the 28th chapter of Matthew? I’ll read the first ten verses of that chapter, and as we read I would want to remind you that it is our conviction that this is God's word that holy men of old wrote as they were moved along, or carried along, by the Holy Spirit. So the Scriptures deserve our complete attention, our prayerful attention, not only here but in our daily study of it. Matthew 28, beginning to read at the first verse:
May the Lord bless to our understanding this familiar passage of Scripture. Now let us unite our hearts together in a moment of silent meditation, of silent prayer, and we ask that you use that time to make mention of your own personal needs. There are those around us who are now heavy in needs this morning, and we ask that you would remember them as well. Now let us unite our hearts together in prayer.
Heavenly Father, we thank You this morning for the word of the angel that is just as fresh to us this morning as it was back yonder. We thank Thee that he is saying to us, “He is not here. He is risen. Come and see the place where the Lord lay.” We thank Thee, our Father, this morning that in this great event that is recorded for us here in this passage and in other of the gospels, we find really the most significant thing that the Christian can look upon, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that we have a living, risen Savior. We appropriate this fact by faith, our Father, this morning because we are many centuries removed from it. But we thank Thee that in Thy grace and wisdom Thou hast given to us this, Thy word, that tells us of that event. And I pray this morning, our Heavenly Father, that every one of us in this building might get a fresh glimpse of what occurred that first Easter morning, that we might understand the experience to the very best of our ability, and that we might appropriate this into our every day life. We thank Thee, O God, that there is this day that is set apart every week that reminds us of a risen Savior and that Easter is celebrated on every Sunday, and every Sunday we celebrate Easter as we gather here in the house of the Lord. So, our Heavenly Father, we come together this morning that we might magnify Thy name, that we might worship Thee and adore Thee; and that we might get a glimpse, O God, of our own weaknesses and have a picture, our Father, of our own sinfulness, and that we might see the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life as ransom for our sins. We thank You, O Lord, for Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. And as we are met here in this place and in His name, we pray that the Holy Spirit might reveal to us His presence, His power, and that we might learn of Him and that we might go out into the world and share with other people of what a difference it makes to know Christ. Our Father, we have walked unaware this week and we have walked in sin. We have been around sinners and our lives have been affected by that. We realize, O God, that we have manifested to the world our own frailty, our own weakness, our own proclivity to sin. We’re ashamed of this, our Father, and we repent and confess it to Thee and pray that there would be a renewing of knowledge, a renewal of desire to live for Christ, a renewal of the desire to be free from sin and its power. We desire O God, to live so that the world knows that Christ does make a difference. We thank Thee for the power that God has given to us, for the authority that comes from Thy word. And we thank Thee, O God, that we can appropriate the promises that are there, that we do not live alone, that we do not live a haphazard life, that we do not live without hope. We thank Thee, O God, for the authority of Scripture to which we can go that is the guide to our daily walk. We know, Lord, that it has the answers to the problems that we face, to the questions that are being asked. We pray Thy blessing, O God, upon the ministry of this church in the community. We thank Thee for those who labor with us who are part of our work. We thank Thee, our God, that Thou art putting into the hearts of men and women a desire to study Thy word and so they give time to gather together around the word. We thank Thee that Thou hast put it in the hearts of some to serve in various capacities: some who minister to the hurting ones in our community, to the confused ones, to the ones, our Father, who are lonely. Thank You, too, that there are those in our congregation that minister to the lost, for those men and women and young people who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior. We thank Thee, our Father, then for the ministry of our church and we pray that it might reach out into the uttermost parts of the world as men and women and young people hear the claims of Christ presented to them in a Sunday School class, in the youth group, or in a Bible Study group or perhaps in a worship service like this one. Our Father, we pray for those today that would be with us were they physically able. We pray for those who are now cut off from the outside world because of frail bodies. We pray that Thou wouldst minister to them and keep them and by Thy grace, O Lord, allow them to know that Thou art there, helping and strengthening. We pray for those that are hospitalized, especially, our Father. We pray for those that have been brought to our attention who are strangers to our city and who need the ministry that's offered here medically and who need also the ministry that's spiritual. Father, we pray for them that today the Holy Spirit would lay the healing hand of a loving God upon their bodies. Father, we pray now for a special measure of Thy blessing as we worship. We want to on this Easter Sunday to be able to see anew the risen, living Lord Jesus Christ. So, our Father, enable us by Thy grace, by Thy power to hear Thy voice. And may the truth of the Scripture be applied to our hearts. We pray this in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.
Every circumstance that is connected to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is deeply interesting to the mind of the Christian. If one were to start at Bethlehem and go right on to Calvary, purely we would say that every step in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is paved with glory. Every place where the Lord Jesus placed His foot becomes sacred to us. When we come to Calvary, our interest begins to quicken and our thoughts begin to center upon the agony through which the Lord Jesus Christ went. We’re not able to leave even when the body is taken down from the Cross, but we can almost become a part of Joseph of Arimathea and also of Nicodemus and perhaps of part of those women who took the body down from the Cross, that mangled body, and wrapped it in clean linen and put it in the tomb.
This morning I want to take you with me back to that day when Mary went to the tomb and she was seeking the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we can't go in, of course, in our bodies–I wish that we could–but in our mind's eye I would like us to visit that place in Jerusalem. Standing by the tomb, examine it and trust that God's voice will instruct us so that as we go away from there we might be able to say with Jacob who looked into heaven and as he saw the ladder stretching from the earth to heaven and the angels up and down that ladder said, “Surely this is the gate of heaven.” The invitation of the angel that we find in verse 6 of the passage of Scripture that I read a moment ago becomes ours. It's yours and it is mine. And I wish that we were able to hear the voice of that angel, as he would say to you and to me, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
And right now I realize that I'm not speaking to a skeptic. If you are in our congregation this morning, skeptical of the things of Scripture and skeptic especially of this particular event in the life of the Christ, I'm not speaking to you right now. I’ll speak to you a little later on, but I'm speaking to the redeemed individual, to the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, to the child of God. Surely you don't need me to urge you to move in the direction of that empty tomb. This is the resting place of the One that conquered death. Some of us have traveled miles to visit the places that have been made famous by people. I've stood on the Beach at Normandy. I've looked over the vast, that beautiful array of white crosses and my mind has gone back to what happened at D-day when thousands upon thousands of American men stormed ashore, along with the British and others, to take back Europe for our democracy. You've been to other places that have been made famous, as I have been. You've driven, as I have, to see the graves of important people. I'm told that more than six million people visited the grave of former President Kennedy within the year after he had been assassinated–six million people.
But can you find the grave of one that's more famous than Jesus Christ, this one that we would visit this morning? Here is where our best friend lay. The Jews said of Mary, “She goeth…she goeth unto the grave to weep there.” And those of you that have read the story in its entirety would be reminded of the fact that Mary was going to the grave of one that she loved. She was going to weep. Most of you in the congregation have lost friends and in sorrow you have gone to stand beside the grace. This morning I want to invite you to come to the grave of your best friend. It really isn't my invitation. As I indicated a while ago, it comes from the lips of the angel. I wish that I could say, “Come with me,” but let's listen to the angel as the angel invites us.
Another one of the versions, that perhaps you have in your hands, puts it this way, “Come see the place where our Lord lay.” And there's a difference, is there not, when I say, “Come to see where the Lord lay” or “where our Lord lay”? There's a difference…the Lord of the angel as well as the Lord of those poor women. I've tried to picture in my mind those angels as they sat there, one at the head and the other at the foot. They told the women where the feet were; they told the women where the head was. And they become our guide into the death place of death itself. Although many of you have not been there, others of us have. None of us ought to be afraid to go there. This morning if you were to go to Jerusalem, no doubt somebody would say, “Let's go to the garden tomb,” and there you would stand with, no doubt, other pilgrims just like yourself outside that little door. Or perhaps you might even go inside. Some of you have. A tomb is not the cheeriest place in the world, but the Lord Jesus Christ never saw corruption and He was soon gone. Here's a great indication then, “Come and see where the Lord lay.” And so you and I go in.
A Look Inside the Tomb…“Where the Lord Lay”
It's a costly place, not just a common grave but it's been cut into the side of a hill. The question about Him being buried in a rich man's tomb must have bothered some people and it bothers some today, but those who have studied the Scripture know that there's a reason for that. The Lord Jesus was not wealthy. His garments were not elegant. He is poor but He lies in the grave of a nobleman. He lies in the grave of a wealthy man. And the question, of course, is why? And the answer is that He was not honored until He died. Trampled underfoot before He died. As the writer puts it, “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” And the moment He finished His suffering, the moment He finished His undertaking, God let Him be treated with respect. I hope that you’ll catch the meaning of all of that, for after He finished His work the Lord Jesus slept in a costly grave. His Father loved Him and His work was done. But keep in mind that it was a borrowed tomb, a borrowed tomb. Most of you have lived in Jackson most of your life or you have lived within driving distance of Jackson, and maybe this does not come across as it does for me. You see, I've been a wanderer all my life, a wanderer. In 1943 when I was stationed out on the West Coast during World War II, I got a message that my father had died, and I made arrangements as quickly as I could to move quickly to Marshall, Texas where my parents had been living for just six months. My father was a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church at Marshall. Six months before that they’d been living in Fort Worth, Texas. But I would go to Marshall and when I got to Marshall among the people that I was introduced to was the family that loaned my family a place in which to place my father's body. A borrowed tomb…this is the way it was with Jesus. My imagination moves as I begin to think of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who must have prepared that tomb for himself, for his family no doubt, but now we find that the Son of God makes it the tomb of a king. Joseph loaned it to Jesus for three days…a borrowed tomb. If you were to go to Marshall, Texas today you would see if you were to wander around through the cemetery there a headstone that says, “James Houston Patterson”…a borrowed grave. In the time of the Lord Jesus just for three days was it borrowed. Was that a dishonor? He bore our sins. He had none of His own sins. He never committed a sin, never committed a wrong, but He took on Himself all of my sins and all of your sins. Those of you who are believers this morning, He took upon Himself all of your sins. As they were other's sins, so He rested in another's grave. He was in a tomb in which no one had ever lain. I could not help but think of the man that was thrown into the grave of Elisha. You remember the prophet of God had died and been buried, and when the other man died the grave was opened and his body was thrown in? And his body touched the bones of Elisha and the Scripture says that “when he touched the bones of Elisha, he was revived.” But there was nothing like that here, nothing like that. He's placed in a tomb where no one had ever been. The gospels of Luke and of John mention the grave clothes all wrapped and lain in their places, the napkin folded by itself. And I mention this, this morning in order that you as you view this experience with me might remember that Jesus did not leave that tomb in a hurry. He slept until the last moment and then He arose. And I've brought this to your attention on other occasions, how significant those grave clothes were, how significant it is that they were where they were and fixed as they were. I've tried to point out here what this must have been like, and may I remind you this morning of the fact that He slept until the last moment and then awoke.
Our Sins Killed Jesus and Put Him in the Tomb
Moving on in our visit to this tomb, I want to touch the strings of your heart, and I want you to look at this place with the emotion of deep sorrow. This man was murdered, and you and I are the murderers. Mr. Wymond in his message of the radio last Sunday morning gripped my heart as he asked, Who killed Jesus? There's a stanza that is omitted from a hymn that many of us like to sing. I'm not sure why but it's left out of most hymnals. I've looked and looked and looked to try to find it, and I've only found one hymnal where this particular stanza is included. In that stanza of that particular hymn it goes something like this, “Twas you my sins, my cruel sins His chief tormentors were, each of my crimes became a nail and unbelief the spear. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.” Did you get the words? “Twas you my sins, my cruel sins His chief tormentors were, each of my crimes became a nail and unbelief the spear.”
Is it really a question of did the Jews kill Jesus? Beloved, I killed Jesus. Your sins slew the Lord Jesus. I've told you before of the Jewish psychiatrist who was questioning me as I was being admitted into the Air Force during World War II. He wanted to know, “Who killed Jesus?” And I said to him, “Sir…” I was just a 19-year-old boy. I didn't know what to say to that experienced individual. What would you say? I wanted to get into the Army Air Corps in the worst kind of way. I didn't want to walk with a gun. I wanted to fly. And I remember looking at that fellow whose name was Billburg–that's pretty Jewish, isn't it? And I said, “Sir, you perhaps will think that I'm crazy,” but I said, “but my sins killed Jesus.” He said, “You’re not gonna tell me that the Jews killed Jesus?” I said, “No, sir. I'm gonna tell you that my sins did.” I'm a much older man today than I was at that time, but I would not change my answer one bit. I killed Jesus. I killed Him, this One who loved me with an everlasting love. I don't know why we don't all weep when we think of the death of the Lord Jesus. He gave Himself for me. What would you do for a person that would save you from death? What would you do? What would be your reaction if suddenly someone were to push you from the front of an automobile that was rushing towards you? You see the Lord Jesus died because my sins put Him there. And I want you to look at that place with joy and with gladness as well. You see He doesn't lie there anymore. My sins slew Him, but His divinity raised Him up. His righteousness restored Him. He came out of that grave, and He came out more than a conqueror, so that the angel is able to say, “Come and see where He lay.”
One of the reasons why you and I should look at that place is because you and I are going to lie in a similar place to that one. Oh, it may not be exactly as that one cut into the side of a hill, but you and I are going to be placed in a grave and some of you will not be here next Easter. This is a fact that almost all of us would want to push aside and we would want to avoid thinking about it. And some cannot think at night when your thoughts begin to turn toward it. I am made of dust; I'm not made of iron. And soon I’ll crumble back into my native elements. But do you ever try to picture yourself at the moment of death? None of us really knows just how near death we really are.
In a letter this morning, as I was writing the letter I was saying to an individual, “Twice, twice recently your plans have been changed drastically,” which indicates something of the brevity of life. None of us knows just how near death we really are, and some of you will refuse to think of it, but it's coming. And you, the unbelievers, at this point should listen very, very carefully because you will die too. I want you to look at the empty tomb. I want you to remember that one day you are going to be placed in a grave. Some would give anything that they have for an extra hour or maybe an extra day or an extra week. Some of us will be thinking back on all of those wasted hours in our life when we could've been doing something that was worthwhile, but they’re gone, never to be recalled. And so we look at the empty tomb, and we look at it with a different attitude. “He's no longer there. Come and see where He lay.”
The Resurrection: Application for Today
The Unusualness of Jesus
But what doctrine can we learn from this? I was with a young man recently and as we were talking together about Scripture he said to me, “Mr. Patterson, it does no good unless the Scripture is made applicable to my life.” What doctrine can I get to share with you from this passage of Scripture? “Come see where the Lord lay.” What did you see when you visited the place where the Lord lay? What did you get? This morning I tried to take you back there. He's not here any longer. He's risen. What did you get as you looked at the empty tomb? Well, I suspect that the first thing that you noticed was that the empty tomb indicates that the One that was placed in there must have been divine. The Scripture teaches us that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Every time I go to the cemetery, I read that glorious promise from 1 Thessalonians. I read that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” At that great day, that the Lord Jesus did rise in a different fashion. We see He arose by His own power. He could not stay in that grave for He was God. Death did not have dominion over Him. The Resurrection is a marvelous proof of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that's the first doctrine that I would learn, something about the unusualness of Jesus.
The Believer Who Trusts in the Lord Jesus is Set Free
Another doctrine that's taught here at the empty tomb is that the believer who trusts in the Lord Jesus is set free. If the Lord Jesus had not paid the debt, He would never have risen from the grave. He would still be right there. And as a justified individual I have not now a sin against me in God's book. Praise God! Praise God that there's not a sin against me in the book of God! Every debt has been canceled.
The Resurrection itself
There's another doctrine, and I quickly move to it. It's the doctrine of the Resurrection itself. The Lord Jesus arose and His followers were wise to it. I know that I must die. Please understand that. I know also that you must die. But when the archangel blows his trumpet, the Scripture says, I am going to rise. Believers in the Lord Jesus are going to rise. All of my disintegrated members are going to come together and I will rise glorified, made like the marvelous body of the Lord Jesus. Those of you that have learned the Catechism understand that, don't you? Do you remember how you were taught about the resurrection of Jesus and of your own resurrection? Glorified. Why do we dread to die? What is the grave? Death–what is death? Oh, beloved, come with me to look at the place where they laid the Savior.
I want you to spend the afternoon meditating on this. I know that family comes from long distances and perhaps you’ll be gathered around the table in a little while and you’ll be chitchatting about this and that, but listen. Would you take time, take time at the table to say, “You know, Mr. Patterson said we oughta think upon this.” And I want you to do that. Meditate on it, not only this afternoon but other times as well.
I want you to weep because of your sins that took the Savior to Calvary, but I want you to be happy!…rejoicing in mind that your sins have been taken care of. And don't be timid about this. Those of you that are Presbyterians will say that this is a personal matter. This is a private matter and you don't want to talk about it. May I say that this is something about which we're not to be timid? I read somewhere that it was timidity that buried Christ. Faith would not have given Christ a funeral at all. Faith would have kept Jesus above ground and would've never let Him be buried. And what would it have said? It's useless to bury Christ because He's going to rise. Fear, fear buried Jesus. Joseph and Nicodemus went secretly. They went secretly for fear of the Jews and they buried Jesus. And I want us to go this morning to see the place where the Lord lay. And I don't want you to go with timidity; I want you to go with gratitude. And I want you to go in humility, and I want you to go rejoicing. Because He lives I too shall live.
And, oh beloved Christian, do you understand what that means? And those of you who came into the building this morning skeptical, not really understanding, Do you know what that means? Would you not by faith, as thousands upon thousands of others have done, would you not say, “That's where He lay,” and it was from there that He arose? And we were justified. Let's bow our heads in prayer.
Our Father, as we come to a conclusion in this service, we realize that we've just skimmed the surface of one of the great facts of Christianity. Lord, we may not understand —, we may not understand substitutionary death, but, O God, this morning we realize that in our lives there's a great discrepancy. We realize that there's a great void that separates us from Thee. We realize that there's sin in our lives. We realize, O God, that that sin has to be paid for, and by faith we accept the fact that Jesus died for that sin. He was placed in the grave for that sin. We praise Thee, O God, that His power was such that He arose from that grave. And so we come this morning to look where He lay. O Lord God, may small children and old men and women be grasped by that great fact as we look at the empty tomb where He lay. We pray this in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.
And now may grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with you and abide with each one of you who loves Christ sincerely. Amen.
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